Italy captain Cannavaro denies World Cup hangover

September 3, 2006

NAPLES, Italy, Sept 3 (Reuters) - Italy captain Fabio Cannavaro denied his side were suffering from a World Cup hangover after they opened their qualifying campaign for Euro 2008 with a 1-1 draw against Lithuania.

The world champions appeared to have taken control of Saturday's game at the San Paolo stadium in Naples when Filippo Inzaghi cancelled out Tomas Danilevicius's early strike.

But they had to settle for a draw after wasting a series of second-half chances in their first competitive outing since winning the World Cup in July.

'We weren't brilliant but I thought we played a good match considering many of our players have been playing only friendlies,' Cannavaro was quoted as saying in Corriere dello Sport.

'We knew it would be a difficult match. They were better than us for the first 10 minutes then I think we played with great determination and created 15 good chances. We were unlucky not to win.'

While Cannavaro shrugged off the result, Italy's media took a more alarmist view.

'Italy come back down to Earth' was the headline in Gazzetta dello Sport.

'Wake up, here comes France', warned the front page of Corriere dello Sport, referring to their next qualifier, a re-run of the World Cup final against France in Paris on Wednesday.

Azzurri keeper Gianluigi Buffon admitted that the result was not what the team had hoped for.

'We thought we could win, but it was tougher than we expected,' he said.

'I don't think we were complacent. We felt a great responsibility to give 100 per cent in this match.

'They (the Lithuanians) were better prepared athletically, but even though we weren't at our best we still created plenty of chances which, unfortunately, we didn't manage to take advantage of.

'In the long run, though, the result of the first qualifier has very little effect. Even the match on Wednesday against France won't be decisive.

'The games in October (against the Ukraine and Georgia) will be more important'.